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Teenage pregnancy: your feelings as a parent
People feel many things when they hear their teenage child is going to become a parent.
You might feel shock, anger, disappointment and concern about your child's future. There could be regret that you didn't do enough to stop the pregnancy from happening. And you might wonder about what extended family members, friends and people at school and in your community will think.
On the other hand, you might think it's wonderful and feel excited about becoming a grandparent.
Mixed feelings are normal. Your feelings might change over time, especially as the time of birth comes closer - or they might not.
Your feelings are important, but during a teenage pregnancy, you might sometimes need to focus more on supporting your teenage daughter or son.
When the time is right, starting a conversation about feelings that come up during the pregnancy can be good for your relationship with your child.
Your teenage child's feelings about pregnancy
Your child is probably going through some intense and mixed feelings about the pregnancy and becoming a parent.
If the pregnancy is planned, your child might be looking forward to parenthood. But if the pregnancy isn't planned, your child might be worried about telling you and finding out how you feel. There's also the worry about what extended family and other people will think - now and after the baby is born.
Young people who become parents often experience judgmental attitudes from peers at school and other people in their lives. If your child knows he or she can come to you for support, it might help with coping.
Your child might not know what kind of support will help during pregnancy. By saying something like 'What can we do together to help you right now?', you're helping your child to think and talk about the support she or he needs.
Encouraging your child to get support through the school's wellbeing team is also a good idea.
If your son is going to be a father, he can check out our Dads Guide to Pregnancy. It has information about what he might be going through and how to support the mother-to-be.
Teenage girls, pregnancy care and birth choices
If your daughter is pregnant and under 19 years, she will need extra care in pregnancy and during parenting. Pregnant teenage girls have special health concerns because their own bodies are still growing and developing, and their emotions can be very mixed and fragile.
The earlier your pregnant teenage daughter gets antenatal care, the more likely she is to have a healthy pregnancy.
Step 1: see your GP
Your daughter needs to see a GP as soon as possible to confirm her pregnancy and to have some basic health checks.
Your daughter will need to book several antenatal appointments and antenatal tests at this first GP visit.
A GP can also give your daughter options for antenatal care and birth.
Step 2: look into teen-specific antenatal care
Ask the GP and the local child and family health service whether there are any local antenatal services experienced in working with pregnant teenagers.
These services can understand your daughter's special physical, emotional, financial and educational needs. They usually have teams of people to care for young pregnant women - doctors, midwives, social workers, dietitians, counsellors and mental health workers.
Step 3: look into birth classes
Birth classes are good for all parents-to-be. They give detailed information about labour, birth, breastfeeding, early parenting and support services.
Most hospitals have birth classes, and some hospitals have them especially for younger parents. If your child isn't comfortable at birth classes, ask about other sessions or options. Sometimes school nurses are also midwives and can spend one-on-one time with teenagers at school.
Support and privacy: finding a balance
Legally, you might still be responsible for your daughter - but your daughter is going to be a parent. When your daughter talks privately with health professionals, it's good practice for when she's responsible for her baby's health as well as her own.
Also, it might be a good idea if you, your daughter and your daughter's partner can have an early conversation about how involved they want you and his parents to be in antenatal care and birth. This can help you understand their needs and boundaries.
Your pregnant teenage daughter will be going through many changes and feelings. Understanding pregnancy changes from week to week can help her cope with what's going on.
Healthy eating, exercise and lifestyle for teenage pregnancy
If your teenage daughter is pregnant, the health professionals involved in her antenatal care will talk with her about keeping healthy, managing stress, and stopping risky activities.
It might be tempting to tell your daughter what to do or what not to do. But a good way to support her is by letting her know that you think she can make good decisions about her health and her baby's health too. If your daughter is worried about anything or doesn't know what to do, you can suggest she talks to the health professionals caring for her.
If your son is an expectant father, you can encourage him to take on a healthier lifestyle. This can help motivate his expectant partner to do the same.
Healthy eating is especially important during pregnancy and breastfeeding. If your daughter is pregnant, she needs good food to support her baby's health and growth as well as her own. She also needs to avoid some foods and drinks.
If your daughter isn't used to preparing her own meals or eating good food away from home, you can share some of your favourite healthy recipes. You could plan meals and go shopping together, which can also help her with budgeting. You might even be able to spend some time together cooking.
Some community programs for young mums also focus on healthy eating and run cooking classes.
If your daughter is significantly overweight or has a history of eating disorders, her health professionals might refer her to a dietitian.
Your daughter might be uncomfortable with the way her body looks and feels while she's pregnant. But pregnancy is not the time to try to lose weight through dieting or intense exercise. This can be harmful for the baby.
Your daughter should avoid:
- skipping meals
- taking diet or weight-loss supplements
- taking nutritional supplements claiming to be healthy for weight loss
- taking natural remedies claiming to be healthy for weight loss
- starting an intense exercise regimen.
You can encourage your daughter to talk with her doctor or midwife about her changing body.
Staying active can improve mood, fitness and sleep, boost energy and ease back pain. Along with healthy eating, physical activity during pregnancy might also reduce weight gain and diabetes. And it can help your daughter cope better during birth.
It's good if your pregnant daughter checks with her midwife or doctor early in pregnancy about how much physical activity she should do. If your son is expecting a baby, you can encourage him to go for regular walks with his pregnant partner as a way of supporting their physical fitness together.
Cutting out smoking, alcohol and other drugs
Most things that your pregnant daughter eats and drinks in pregnancy will pass through to her placenta and then to her baby.
Your daughter needs to stop smoking, drinking alcohol and taking non-prescribed drugs like marijuana, speed, ice, heroin and cocaine. These substances are all bad for your daughter's health and her baby's growth and development.
Your daughter should check with her doctor or midwife that any medicines she's taking are safe for pregnancy. This includes prescribed medicines, herbal medicines, natural supplements and medicines from chemists and supermarkets.
If your daughter needs help to stop smoking, she can call Quitline on 137 848. And if you have concerns about your child's substance use, talk to your child straight away and encourage your child to talk to the doctor, midwife or school nurse.
Some young parents can feel anxious, frustrated, angry or overwhelmed. Sometimes this can even lead to violence. If you notice your teenage child struggling with these feelings, you or your child can get help by calling 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732). You can also get online counselling at 1800RESPECT.
Supporting pregnant teenagers and teenage parents to finish school
Education is the key to a positive future.
You and your child could talk together to a social worker, counsellor or your child's antenatal team to find out more about education options and planning, as well as school programs that support young parents.
Your child might be able to get special consideration or extra time-out for medical appointments or poor health. A modified timetable can help some young parents-to-be. Some secondary schools have child care facilities.
When your child's baby is born, you'll be a grandparent. It might be good to think about what kind of grandparent you want to be and how big a role you want to play in raising your grandchild.
Services and support for parents and pregnant teenagers
The following services can help as you and your family go through this big life change.
Parentline Australian Capital Territory
- Phone: (02) 6287 3833
- Hours: 9 am-9 pm, Monday to Friday
Parent Line New South Wales
- Phone: 1300 130 052 (cost of a local call)
- Hours: 9 am-9 pm, Monday to Friday, 4 pm-9 pm, Saturday and Sunday
Parentline Queensland and Northern Territory
- Phone: 1300 301 300 (cost of a local call)
- Hours: 8 am-10 pm, 7 days a week
Parent Helpline South Australia
- Phone: 1300 364 100 (cost of a local call)
- Hours: 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
Parent Line Tasmania
- Phone: 1300 808 178 (cost of a local call)
- Hours: 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
- Phone: 132 289 (cost of a local call)
- Hours: 8 am to midnight, 7 days a week
Ngala Parenting Line Western Australia
- Phone: (08) 9368 9368 or 1800 111 546 (regional callers)
- Hours: 8 am-8 pm, 7 days a week
You can also call:
- Pregnancy Birth and Baby - phone 1800 882 436
- Healthdirect Australia - phone 1800 022 222.
Our parent and family services article also lists links and resources that can help you.